Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life

Lately, our little church has been singing "Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life" twice a week. It's serving as our Lenten hymn of praise on Sunday mornings and it's featured in the liturgy we're using on Wednesday nights. You might not be familiar with the words of George Herbert's poem, which is quite beautiful.

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a Way, as gives us breath:
Such a Truth, as ends all strife:
Such a Life, as killeth death.

Come, My Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a Light, as shows a feast:
Such a Feast, as mends in length:
Such a Strength, as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a Joy, as none can move:
Such a Love, as none can part:
Such a Heart, as joys in love.

We sing this to an arrangement by Ralph Vaughn Williams. (Ralph's friends pronounce his name "Ray-fe".)

I'm a big fan of thinking about the words we sing and this song/poem has some interesting and complicated phrases. Of course, in my interpretation, I might be terrible injustice to what Herbert meant, but I'm going with my best faithful guess and understanding.

Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life- This serves as an invitation to Christ, from the poet (or singer). We're inviting the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6) to be the only shaper of our existence. It's important to remember that when we issue such an invitation, we're doing so through the help of the Holy Spirit and we're not inviting Jesus to come to a place he's never been. We're coming around to the recognition of our need for the creative, redeeming, and merciful God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and to the understanding that God has been with us all along. We're just getting with the program. (And we'll need daily (hourly! secondly!) reminders of our role in this relationship.

Such a Way as gives us breath- Without God, we have nothing. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away (blessed be the name of the Lord). Even breath. Without our breath, we are but dust.

Such a Truth, as ends all strife- Well, any time I hear about a peaceful Jesus, I think of him saying, "I come not to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34) At the heart of God, we find the Son, a gift to the world, so that we might know the love and the true expectations of the Father. The truth of the empty tomb ends our struggle with trying to make ourselves right with God.

Such a Life, as killeth death- I have no idea how eternal life works, I only know that I want it. And I believe that I can only have it through Jesus Christ. His life, resurrected life, brings the possibility of eternal life to all who believe. O death, where is your sting now?

Come, My Light, my Feast, my Strength- God's Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. (Psalm 119, John 1) When we eat together in remembrance of Jesus Christ, the Spirit spreads before us enough nourishment to go forth and do what God calls us to do. We can do all things through Christ, who gives us strength. (Philippians 4:13)

Such a Light, as shows a feast- Christ is our light, shining not only the way, but the abundant life that God desires for us to have. Does abundant life meant that we will always have everything we will need? In the light of biblical understanding, actually, it does. Because the community, the body of Christ, will lift one another up, sharing food, faith and fellowship until the time when the Lord comes again. Of course, outside of the church, society can warp the idea of sharing, but we who believe in the Light are called to live into the feast that is revealed to us, for us and for the whole creation.

Such a Feast, as mends in length- (The first of what I think are the two most confusing lines.) Christ, the feast of welcome, is everlasting. The life of Jesus, though confined to a time and place, is the mostly clearly understandable (!) part of the life of the whole Trinity, eternal and ineffable. When I hear "mends in length", I think eternal. That just when you think you've reached the end of the table, the end of row, the end of the line, the end of time- it keeps going. It's a mind-boggling concept, but it's a length that stretches into forever. A creative, forgiving, shaping, compelling eternal feast of love is our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Such a Strength, as makes his guest- (The second of the confusing lines) I'm never really sure what this says about Christ, God or my relationship with the Three-in-One. With Christ as Strength, it's more than "all things are possible". There's an granting of eternal grounding and a place of belonging. Perhaps this is illustrated in John 8:35 (paraphrase mine), "Now a slave does not have a permanent place in the household, but the Son abides there forever." Through Christ, we are guests in the house of God. Guests, in the sense of not originally members of the household. Yet unlike a slave, we are made children of the household, through the Son, and so we too can remain their forever. This is the strength of the bond between Father and Son, that whoever is welcomed by one is welcomed by all.

Come, My Joy, My Love, My Heart- Here is the invitation for that which can offer true joy, deep, abiding love, a place on which to hang our hopes and dreams.

Such a Joy, as none can move- Who shall separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35)? Short answer: No one and no thing. What could give greater joy and consolation?

Such a Love, as none can part- See line above. Ditto.

Such a Heart, as joys in love- Since Christ is not dead, but is living and living among us and in us, joy can still be his. How much joy is there in Christ and in heaven when love is shown and shared among those who believe and to the world for the sake of the cross? This is the love of Christ compelling us, so that our joy may be full as well. (2 Cor. 5:14, John 15:11)

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